Page images

O thou fairer than the children of men, in thy Majesty ride on prosperously, because of truth and meekness and righteousness; and thy right hand shall teach thee terrible things.

In this princely, and yet poor and despicable pomp, doth our Saviour enter the famous city of Jerusalem; Jerusalem, noted of old for the seat of kings, priests, prophets of kings, for there was the throne of David; of priests, for there was the temple; of prophets, for there they delivered their errands, and left their blood. Neither know I, whether it were more wonder for a prophet to perish out of Jerusalem, or to be safe there. Thither would Jesus come as a King, as a Priest, as a Prophet; acclaimed, as a King; teaching the people, and foretelling the woeful vastation of it, as a Prophet; and, as a Priest, taking possession of his temple, and vindicating it from the foul profanations of Jewish sacrilege.

Oft before had he come to Jerusalem, without any remarkable change, because without any semblance of state; now, that he gives some little glimpse of his royalty, the whole city was moved. When the Sages of the East brought the first news of the King of the Jews, Herod was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and now, that the King of the Jews comes himself, though in so mean a port, there is a new commotion. The silence and obscurity of Christ, never troubles the world; he may be an underling, without any stir: but if he do but put forth himself never so little to bear the least sway amongst men, now their blood is up; the whole city is moved. Neither is it otherwise in the private economy of the soul. O Saviour, while thou dost, as it were, hide thyself, and lie still in the heart, and takest all terms contentedly from us, we entertain thee with no other than a friendly welcome; but when thou once beginnest to ruffle with our corruptions, and to exercise thy spiritual power in the subjugation of our vile affections, now all is in a secret uproar, all the angles of the heart are moved.

Although, doubtless, this commotion was not so much of tumult, as of wonder. As when some uncouth sight presents itself in a populous street, men run, and gaze, and throng, and inquire; the feet, the tongue, the eyes walk; one spectator draws on another, one asks and presses another; the noise increases with the concourse, each helps to stir up others' expectation: such was this of Jerusalem.

What means this strangeness? Was not Jerusalem the Spouse of Christ? Had he not chosen her out of all the earth? Had he not begotten many children of her, as the pledges of their love? How justly mayest thou now, O Saviour, complain, with that mirror of patience, My breath was grown strange to my own wife, though I entreated her for the children's sake of my own body! Even of thee is that fulfilled, which thy chosen vessel said of thy ministers, Thou art made a gazing-stock to the world, to angels, and to men.

As all the world was bound to thee for thy Incarnation and residence upon the face of the earth, so especially Judea, to whose limits thou confinedst thyself; and therein, above all the rest, three cities, Nazareth, Capernaum, Jerusalem, on whom thou bestowedst the most time, and cost of preaching, and miraculous works. Yet in all three, thou receivedst, not strange entertainment only, but hostile. In Nazareth, they would have cast thee down headlong from the mount in Capernaum, they would have bound thee in Jerusalem, they crucified thee at last, and now are amazed at thy presence. Those places and persons, that have the greatest helps and privileges afforded to them, are not always the most answerable, in the return of their thankfulness. Christ's being amongst us doth not make us happy, but his welcome. Every day may we hear him in our streets, and yet be as new to seek as these citizens of Jerusalem; Who is this?

Was it a question of applause, or of contempt, or of ignorance? Applause, of his abettors; contempt, of the Scribes and Pharisces; ignorance, of the multitude? Surely, his abettors had not been moved at this sight; the Scribes and Pharisees had rather envied than contemned: the multitude, doubtless, inquired seriously, out of a desire of information. Not that the citizens of Jerusalem knew not Christ, who was so ordinary a guest, so noted a Prophet amongst them. Questionless, this question was asked of that part of the train, which went before this triumph, while our Saviour was not yet in sight, which ere long his presence had resolved. It had been their duty to have known, to have attended Christ, yea to have published him to others: since this is not done, it is well yet that they spend their breath in an inquiry. No doubt, there were many, that would not so much as leave their shop-board, and step to their doors or their windows, to say, Who is this? as not thinking it could concern them who passed by, while they might sit still. Those Greeks were in some way to good, that could say to Philip, We would see Jesus. O Saviour, thou hast been so long amongst us, that it is our just shame, if we know thee not. If we have been slack hitherto, let our zealous inquiry make amends for our neglect. Let outward pomp and worldly glory draw the hearts and tongues of carnal men after them: Oh let it be my care and happiness, to ask after nothing but thee.

The attending disciples could not be to seek for an answer. Which of the prophets have not put it into their mouths? Who is this? Ask Moses, and he shall tell you, The Seed of the Woman that shall break the Serpent's head. Ask our father Jacob, and he shall tell you, The Shiloh of the Tribe of Judah. Ask David, and he shall tell you, The King of Glory. Ask Isaiah, he shall tell you, Immanuel, Wonderful, Counsellor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Ask Jeremiah, and he shall tell you, The Righteous Branch. Ask Daniel,

he shall tell you, The Messiah. Ask John the Baptist, he shall tell you, The Lamb of God. If ye ask the God of the Prophets, he hath told you, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Yea, if all these be too good for you to consult with, the devils themselves have been forced to say, I know who thou art, even that Holy One of God. On no side, hath Christ left himself without a testimony; and, accordingly, the multitude here have their answer ready, This is Jesus, the Prophet of Nazareth in Galilee.

Ye undervalue your Master, O ye well-meaning followers of Christ: A Prophet? yea, more than a Prophet? John Baptist was so, yet was but the harbinger of this Messiah. This was that God, by whom the prophets were both sent and inspired. Of Nazareth, say you? ye mistake him: Bethlehem was the place of his birth, the proof of his tribe, the evidence of his Messiahship. If Nazareth were honoured by his preaching, there was no reason he should be dishonoured by Nazareth. No doubt, he, whom you confessed, pardoned the error of your confession. Ye spake but according to the common style: the two disciples, in their walk to Emmaus, after the Death and Resurrection of Christ, give him no other title. This belief passed current with the people; and thus high even the vulgar thoughts could then rise and, no doubt, even thus much was for that time very acceptable to the Father of Mercies. If we make profession of the truth according to our knowledge, though there be much imperfection in our apprehension and delivery, the mercy of our good God takes it well; not judging us for what we have not, but accepting us in what we have. Shouldst thou, O God, stand strictly upon the punctual degrees of knowledge, how wide would it go with millions of souls! for, beside much error in many, there is more ignorance. But herein do we justly magnify and adore thy goodness, that, where thou findest diligent endeavour of better information matched with an honest simplicity of heart, thou passest by our unwilling defects, and crownest our wellmeant confessions.

But oh the wonderful hand of God, in the carriage of this whole business! The people proclaimed Christ first a king; and now they proclaim him a prophet. Why did not the Roman bands run into arms, upon the one? why did not the Scribes and Pharisees and the envious Priesthood mutiny, upon the other? They had made decrees against him; they had laid wait for him; yet now he passes in state through their streets, acclaimed both a King and a Prophet without their reluctation. What can we impute this unto, but to the powerful and overruling arm of his Godhead? He, that restrained the rage of Herod and his courtiers upon the first news of a King born, now restrains all the opposite powers of Jerusalem from lifting up a finger against this last and public avouchment of the Regal and Prophetical

Office of Christ. When flesh and blood have done their worst. they can be but such as he will make them. If the legions of hell combine with the potentates of the earth, they cannot go beyond the reach of their tether: whether they rise or sit still, they shall, by an insensible ordination, perform that will of the Almighty, which they least think of, and most oppose.

With this humble pomp and just acclamation, O Saviour, dost thou pass through the streets of Jerusalem to the temple. Thy first walk was not to Herod's palace, or to the market-places or burses of that populous city,but to the Temple; whether it were out of duty, or out of need: as a good son, when he comes from far, his first alighting is at his father's house; neither would he think it other than preposterous, to visit strangers before his friends, or friends before his father. Besides that the temple had more use of thy presence: both there was the most disorder, and from thence, as from a corrupt spring, it issued forth into all the channels of Jerusalem. A wise physician inquires first into the state of the head, heart, liver, stomach, the vital and chief parts, ere he asks after the petty symptoms of the meaner and less-concerning members. Surely, all good or evil begins at the Temple. If God have there his own, if men find there nothing but wholesome instruction, holy example, the commonwealth cannot want some happy tincture of piety, devotion, sanctimony; as that fragrant perfume from Aaron's head sweetens his utmost skirts. Contrarily, the distempers of the temple cannot but affect the secular state. As therefore the good husbandman, when he sees the leaves grow yellow, and the branches unthriving, looks presently to the root; so didst thou, O Holy Saviour, upon sight of the disorders spread over Jerusalem and Judea, address thyself to the rectifying of the Temple.

No sooner is Christ alighted at the gate of the outer court of his Father's house, than he falls to work. Reformation was his errand that he roundly attempts. That holy ground was profaned by sacrilegious barterings. Within the third court of that sacred place, was a public mart held. Here was a throng of buyers and sellers: though not of all commodities, (the Jews were not so irreligious,) only of those things, which were for the use of sacrifice. The Israelites came many of them from afar: it was no less from Dan to Beersheba, than the space of a hundred and threescore miles; neither could it be without much inconvenience for them to bring their bullocks, sheep, goats, lambs, meal, oil, and such other holy provision with them up Jerusalem. Order was taken by the priests, that these might for money be had close by the altar; to the ease of the offerer and the benefit of the seller, and perhaps no disprofit to themselves. The pretence was fair; the practice unsufferable. The great Owner of the Temple comes, to vindicate the reputation and rights of his own House; and, in an indignation at that


so foul abuse, lays fiercely about him; and, with his three-stringed scourge, whips out those sacrilegious chapmen, casts down their tables, throws away their baskets, scatters their heaps, and sends away their customers with smart and horror.

With what fear and astonishment, did the repining offenders look upon so unexpected a justicer; while their conscience lashed them more than those cords, and the terror of that meek chastiser more affrighted them than his blows! Is this that mild and gentle Saviour, that came to take upon him our stripes, and to undergo the chastisements of our peace? Is this that quiet Lamb, which before his shearers openeth not his mouth? See now, how his eyes sparkle with holy anger, and dart forth beams of indignation in the faces of these guilty collybists: see, how his hands deal strokes and ruin! Yea, thus, thus it became thee, O thou gracious Redeemer of Men, to let the world see, thou hast not lost thy justice in thy mercy; that there is not more lenity in thy forbearances, than rigour in thy just severity; that thou canst thunder, as well as shine.

This was not thy first act of this kind. At the entrance of thy public work, thou beganst so, as thou now shuttest up, with purging thy house. Once before, had these offenders been whipt out of that holy place, which now they dare again defile. Shame, and smart, is not enough to reclaim obdured offenders. Gainful sins are not easily checked, but less easily mastered. These bold flies, where they are beaten off, will alight again. He that is filthy will be filthy still.

Oft yet had our Saviour been, besides this, in the temple; and often had seen the same disorder: he doth not think fit to be always whipping. It was enough, thus twice to admonish and chastise them, before their ruin. That God, who hates sin always, will not chide always, and strikes more seldom; but he would have those few strokes perpetual monitors; and, if those prevail not, he smites but once. It is his uniform course, first the whip; and if that speed not, then the sword.

There is a reverence due to God's house, for the Owner's sake, for the service's sake. Secular and profane actions are not for that sacred roof; much less, uncivil and beastly. What, but holiness, can become that place, which is the Beauty of Holiness.

The fairest pretences cannot bear out a sin with God. Never could there be more plausible colours cast upon any act; the convenience, the necessity of provisions for the sacrifice : yet, through all these, do the fiery eyes of our Saviour see the foul covetousness of the priests, the fraud of the money-changers, the intolerable abuse of the temple. Common eyes may be cheated with easy pretexts; but he, that looks through the heart at the face, justly answers our apologies with scourges.

None but the hand of public authority must reform the abuses of the temple. If all be out of course there, no man is barred

« PreviousContinue »